Monday, May 31, 2021

PlayStation Now Adds The Witcher 3, Sonic, Slay The Spire, And More In June

While Xbox Game Pass often steals all the headlines thanks to its onslaught of games added over the last couple of years, Sony has been making some big additions to its PlayStation Now service as well. The company today announced the additions coming for the month of June, and the offerings are looking rather strong for those who subscribe to the service.

The headliner is certainly The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Game of the Year Edition. Those who haven't already played The Witcher 3 are in for a treat, as this bundle not only includes one of the best games of last generation, but also all 16 pieces of DLC and the two award-winning expansion packs: Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was immediately one of the most memorable experiences in gaming history when it released, and it has only gotten better in the time since. You can read our review of the base game here. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is available until September 6, and it's a huge game, so plan on starting sooner rather than later.

Sonic Mania

Next up is a trio of Sonic games to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Blue Blur. Sonic Mania is not only a terrific celebration of the hedgehog's past featuring classic level design, timeless music, and Genesis-inspired graphics, but arguably one of the best Sonic games to date. Sonic Forces released alongside Sonic Mania in 2017, and while it wasn't as well received as the more traditional platformer, it's not without its share of high-speed thrills. Finally, Sonic's most recent racing outing, Team Sonic Racing, rounds out the hedgehog hijinks. You can read our review of Sonic Mania here, Sonic Forces here, and Team Sonic Racing here.

We loved Slay the Spire when it first launched and it's great that more people will be able to play it thanks to PlayStation Now. Build your deck from a selection of hundreds of cards and tackle ever-changing layouts and escalating battles. The fascinating fusion of genres transcends the typical niche appeal to hook players of varying interests and inspire them to climb the deadly spire over and over again. Learn more about Slay the Spire in our review here. Slay the Spire will be available on PlayStation Now until December 6.

Slay the Spire Slay the Spire

Rounding out this month's list is Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown and Car Mechanic Simulator. Virtua Fighter 5 is largely revered as one of the best 3D fighters, but this is hardly a huge get for PlayStation Now subscribers, as it will already be available at no additional cost to PlayStation Plus members this month. Meanwhile, Car Mechanic Simulator appears to do what the name implies, allowing you to repair, paint, tune, and drive cars as you build your repair service business.

Streaming for PlayStation Now supports up to 1080p resolution to PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 consoles, as well as PC, though resolution will depend largely on your internet connection. 

Are you a PlayStation Now subscriber? Are you looking forward to playing any of these games starting next month? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section!

Far Cry 6 Narrative Director: 'Our Story Is Political'

In the past, many developers have been hesitant to call their game "political" for fear of pushback from parts of the gaming community. Ubisoft has been guilty of that in the past, but following an out-of-context quote that circulated last Friday where Far Cry 6 narrative director Navid Khavari said the team didn't want to deal specifically with the politics of Cuba, Khavari has come out and said, in no uncertain terms, that the story of Far Cry 6 is political.

Taking to a blog post on the Ubisoft website, Khavari starts the post with a blunt declaration about the politics of its upcoming game. You can read the full, unabridged text from the blog post, titled "The Politics of Far Cry 6," below.

Our story is political.

A story about a modern revolution must be. There are hard, relevant discussions in Far Cry 6 about the conditions that lead to the rise of fascism in a nation, the costs of imperialism, forced labor, the need for free-and-fair elections, LGBTQ+ rights, and more within the context of Yara, a fictional island in the Caribbean. My goal was to empower our team to be fearless in the story we were telling, and we worked incredibly hard to do this over the last five years. We also tried to be very careful about how we approached our inspirations, which include Cuba, but also other countries around the world that have experienced political revolutions in their histories.

In our approach we made sure to seek creators and collaborators for our team who can speak personally to the history and cultures of the regions we were inspired by. We also brought on experts and consultants to examine the game story multiple times over the course of the project to make sure it was being told with sensitivity. It is not for me to decide if we succeeded, but I can say we absolutely tried.

The conversations and research done on the perspectives of those who fought revolutions in the late 1950s, early 1960s, and beyond are absolutely reflected in our story and characters. But if anyone is seeking a simplified, binary political statement specifically on the current political climate in Cuba, they won’t find it. I am from a family that has endured the consequences of revolution. I have debated revolution over the dinner table my entire life. I can only speak for myself, but it is a complex subject that should never be boiled down to one quote.

What players will find is a story that’s point-of-view attempts to capture the political complexity of a modern, present-day revolution within a fictional context. We have attempted to tell a story with action, adventure, and heart, but that also isn’t afraid to ask hard questions. Far Cry is a brand that in its DNA seeks to have mature, complex themes balanced with levity and humor. One doesn’t exist without the other, and we have attempted to achieve this balance with care. My only hope is that we are willing to let the story speak for itself first before forming hard opinions on its political reflections.

Thank you for reading.

Navid Khavari
Narrative Director, Far Cry 6

A story about a rising revolution in a nation slipping into fascism is ripe for storytelling, but also impossible to tell a meaningful story within the confines of avoiding the political overtones of such a situation. It seems as though Khavari recognizes that, and hopefully Ubisoft will allow the team to fully explore the themes it wants to with this game. Far Cry 6 launches on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC, and Mac on October 7. For more on Far Cry 6, check out our preview from last week.

[Source: Ubisoft]

PowerA's Fusion Pro Is A Great Wireless Controller For Nintendo Switch

When the Nintendo Switch launched in 2017, players were given a choice of how they wanted to play with Nintendo's fledgling hybrid system. However, those who wanted a better gamepad experience than the Joy-Cons could offer needed to pick up the official Switch Pro Controller, which better emulated the traditional offerings from consoles like the Xbox One. In the time since the system's launch, we've seen a few companies attempt to deliver a competent third-party experience, but to this point, most (if not all) have fallen short of Nintendo's first-party offering. One of those companies, PowerA, has pulled out all the stops, finally giving the first-party Switch Pro Controller a run for its money.

The PowerA Fusion Pro Enhanced Wireless Controller delivers most of the bells and whistles you'd want from a premium gamepad. This weighty controller sits nicely in your hands and features the standard button layout gamers have grown accustomed to with four primary face buttons, two shoulder buttons, two triggers, a d-pad, and offset analog sticks. Unlike the first-party Switch Pro controller, the PowerA Fusion Pro features a textured grip, making it more comfortable to hold in your hands. To top it off, the controller features Bluetooth 5.0 technology, a 10-foot cable if you prefer to plug in, and a 3.5mm audio jack for when you're playing in wired mode. 

Unfortunately, the Fusion Pro, like the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, only supports digital triggers (not sensitive to varying degrees of pressure). In addition, the Fusion Pro does not support rumble in gameplay; if actually feeling the impact of the on-screen action in your hands is a big part of gaming for you, then perhaps this controller isn't for you. However, the controller improves on several key areas that I didn't miss the rumble as much as I thought I would going in.

Click image thumbnails to view larger version



The Fusion Pro also offers a ton of customization options. As with other modern premium controllers, you can swap out the analog sticks; if the standard-length, concave sticks aren't to your liking, you can equip longer sticks or even a convex stick to ensure the best feel on your thumbs. My personal loadout is to have a short concave stick on the left, a long concave stick on the right, a white faceplate, and no back paddles (more on those later). 

With third-party controller customization, the process can sometimes be a bit convoluted, requiring the use of special pack-in tools or even a screwdriver. The Fusion Pro lets you easily slide off the faceplate and then detach the stick you want to replace with limited fuss. Then, thanks to the fact that the sticks are attached under the faceplate, once you have the new face in place, the sticks are secure. I can't tell you how many times I've knocked an analog stick off the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller since it just uses a strong magnet to keep the sticks in place, so I appreciate the security of the sticks on the Fusion Pro. 

The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller offers terrific battery life with its built-in rechargeable pack, and the PowerA Fusion Pro is no different. Across several play sessions, I never even received a low-battery notification. After a couple weeks of use, I eventually plugged it in to allow it to charge before I woke up the next morning for another marathon gaming session. The company says a single charge can last 20 hours, and from my experience, that estimate might be a little on the low end.

The Fusion Pro controller may look good sitting on your coffee table and feel good resting in your hands, but where the Fusion Pro really sets itself apart is in how it plays. Testing it out through a diverse list of Switch mainstays, I never had a bad experience. Whether I was taking down Calamity Ganon in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or platforming through some of the more challenging sequences of Super Mario 3D World, I always felt in full control of my character.

One of the biggest problems with Nintendo's Pro Controller is the mushy and imprecise d-pad. The d-pad on the first-party Switch Pro Controller is so bad that I avoid playing games like Tetris 99 with it. However, the Fusion Pro fixes this problem and then some. Putting the d-pad to the test, I replayed through the entirety of Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2 in the Switch's classic games catalog. Using the PowerA controller, I was able to precisely platform through Mario's most formative playgrounds, never feeling like the d-pad was to blame for any of my lost lives. Even if the other improvements over the Switch Pro Controller weren't present, the Fusion Pro d-pad offers such an improvement, I'd still prefer it over the standard first-party offering.

I was initially skeptical of the very concept of back paddles, but after playing Overwatch for hundreds of hours with the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller, it's tough for me to play a competitive shooter without them. I fired up my favorite first-person shooter on Switch to test out the paddles Fusion Pro. The custom mapping process isn't as intuitive as the Xbox Elite (which has its own native app), but it was far from painless; you just have to hold down a button on the back, press the face button you want to map, then press the paddle you want to map it to. 

Unfortunately, I'm not a huge fan of the back paddles on the Fusion Pro. The paddles protrude just a touch more than those on the Xbox Elite Series 2, meaning I accidentally pressed them somewhat often. Even when I wasn't accidentally triggering them, the way they sit in my hand wasn't nearly as comfortable as I'd like. Thankfully, you can easily remove them from the controller with a press of a button, and replace the gap with a smooth cover to make it feel like a normal gamepad. Once I did that, the controller quickly became my favorite to use with the Switch.

Though I prefer the Fusion Pro over the standard Switch Pro controller, it does come at a cost. The first-party Switch Pro controller retails for $70 (though you can find deals on it pretty regularly), while the PowerA Fusion Pro will set you back $99. In my experience, between the much better d-pad, the improved handle grip, and the customization options, the Fusion Pro is well worth the higher price point.

CD Projekt Profits Drop As Cyberpunk 2077 Remains Off PlayStation Store

Following a launch that sparked massive backlash from the gaming community, CD Projekt's Cyberpunk 2077 was removed from the PlayStation Store's digital marketplace and those who purchased it were offered the opportunity to receive a refund. The game is still unavailable for purchase from the PlayStation Store today, and CD Projekt is feeling the effects as it reports its quarterly profits.

CD Projekt SA's profit fell more than half from a year earlier, Reuters reports. While the company did not say how many copies of Cyberpunk 2077 it sold during the quarter, it says that approximately 60 percent of first-quarter sales came from Cyberpunk 2077. Overall net profit at the Polish company fell 64.7 percent to 32.5 million zlotys (just below $8.9 million). Going in, analysts projected 80 million zlotys, but Cyberpunk 2077 development expenditures plus work on post-launch fixes have greatly impacted that. CD Projekt revenue also dropped by 2 percent. Reuters also reports that CD Projekt's shares have dropped more than 60 percent in value from their all-time high value during last year's lead up to Cyberpunk 2077's launch.

In March, CD Projekt said the return to the PlayStation Store was close to happening, but to this day, it remains delisted from the platform's digital storefront. "The general situation as long as we are not back on the Sony store has not changed," a company official said on today's conference call. "One of the leading marketplaces for us is not available and we generate most of the sales on the PC/digital channels."

In response to the Cyberpunk 2077 backlash, CD Projekt is planning to make some changes to its business and the way it operates. According to the report, the company plans to move toward a parallel development process where it will create multiple high-budget projects at the same time beginning in 2022. In addition, the company will begin looking for merger and acquisition opportunities.

Cyberpunk 2077 launched on December 10, 2020 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC. While we came away impressed by the PC version we played prior to release (read our review of that version here), the console version, which CD Projekt did not provide advance access to, was in a completely different state (read our review of that version here). This resulted in fans pushing back against the company and CD Projekt apologizing for the low-quality experience on consoles.

Cyberpunk 2077 is currently available to purchase digitally for Xbox One, Stadia, and PC, though a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S version is planned for 2021. CD Projekt also plans to release a PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S version of its most beloved title, The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, during the calendar year.

[Source: Reuters]

Several Older Need For Speed Games Delisted Today, Taken Offline This Fall

The current Need for Speed game may be in limbo at present so developer Criterion can help out with the Battlefield franchise, but Electronic Arts has announced it is sunsetting several older Need for Speed titles. Not only will the the five affected Need for Speed games no longer have access to their online features when the sunset occurs this fall, but they are also delisted from digital storefronts effective today. 

According to a Reddit post from community manager Max Myrus, Need for Speed Carbon, Need for Speed Undercover, Need for Speed Shift, Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed, and Need for Speed: The Run are getting delisted today. After today's delisting and closure of the in-game storefronts, players can access the online components until August 31. Beginning September 1, 2021, the online servers will close and players will be restricted to the offline modes.

"Decisions to retire games are never made easy, but we are now shifting gears to focus on the future of Need for Speed," the post from Myrus said. "The development teams and operational staff have put a lot of time and passion into the development, creation, release, and upkeep of the game over the years, and we love to see you play. But the number of players has come to a point where it's no longer feasible to continue the work behind the scenes required to keep Need for Speed Carbon, Need for Speed Undercover, Need for Speed Shift, Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed and Need for Speed The Run up and running."

While servers for older games coming offline is no rare occurrence, the abrupt, same-day delisting with next to no warning is unfortunate for those who want to add the titles to their libraries. Thankfully, you can still track down the physical versions of the games if you wish to play. Of the games listed, the most recent is Need for Speed: The Run, which released in November 2011, meaning the games are all at least nearly a decade old. 

If you own these games, you have until August 31 to enjoy the online offerings. After that, you can still play the offline elements of those games. The post from the community manager recommends players who want to keep racing online pick up some of the newer titles including Need for Speed Most Wanted (2012), Need for Speed Rivals, Need for Speed (2015), Need for Speed Payback, Need for Speed Heat, and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered. The next Need for Speed game is currently set to launch in 2022.

[Source: Reddit]

Two Point Campus Leaked In Microsoft Store Listing

The studio behind Two Point Hospital is ready to take us back to school according to a leak from the Microsoft Store. We largely enjoyed Two Point Hospital when it launched in 2018, as the game harkened back to the nostalgic delights of Theme Hospital, so when the Microsoft Store leaked that Two Point Studios is gearing up to announce a university management game, I was immediately on board. 

The Microsoft Store listing (now taken down) was documented by several users across various forums, including Resetera and Quarter To Three. Those users not only grabbed the screenshots from the listing, but also the text from the product description. As the name implies, Two Point Campus allows you to build a university however you want, all with the signature Two Point Studios humor. 

According to the copied text from the forum users, you can build the university of your dreams, then populate it with students, faculty, and staff. Each student has a personality with wants and needs for you to fulfill. In addition to constructing buildings and laying out the campus itself, you can also design your curriculum by choosing courses and hiring the best staff you can.

Two Point Campus offers new creative tools for players to take of advantage of en route to building an academic institution that can withstand the test of time. In addition to laying out the buildings and constructing the soon-to-be hallowed halls of their university, players can also design the outdoor space of the campus, ensuring students have plenty to do and are happy. Players can get as detailed as they want with mechanics that enable them to drill down to placing every tree or constructing pathways with a new easy-to-use tool. According to the leaked product listing, players can also place benches, fountains, sculptures, hedgerows, and picket fences. 

With the Two Point name comes the Two Point humor and twists. The curricula available seem to reflect that, as students probably won't be studying business or engineering on your Two Point Campus. Instead, it looks like your academic offerings consist of things like Knight School, where they learn to joust, and Gastronomy, where they learn to make things like giant pizzas and pies. 

You can prepare for the students' arrival during summer break. During this time, you can build libraries, hire staff, add your favorite courses, and unlock the academic potential for the soon-to-arrive students. You can also offer clubs, societies, gigs, and more to help the students stay happy, develop relationships, and make sure they have fun in addition to learning.

Two Point Hospital launched in 2018 for PC, Mac, and Linux, but made the leap to consoles in 2020. No additional information on Two Point Campus is available at this time.

[Source: Microsoft via Resetera]

Double Fine's Approach To Crunch And Labor

Double Fine founder Tim Schafer used to tell people he didn't have any regrets; he's been able to make all the things he wanted to make. But as he got older, his feelings changed. In his career, Schafer both participated in and encouraged brutal periods of crunch on various game development projects. Reflecting on it now, he says he has a lot of regrets about what he put his teams through.

"When it's just yourself, you can throw yourself against the task as hard as you can," Schafer says. "'All day and all night, I'm going to push this rock. Ahhh! I'm going to give it my all.' And then as I got more into a role where I was managing and designing and there were other people doing the gameplay programming stuff, now you're pushing on a soft person who's against the rock. So you can, like, squish them and kill them if you push too hard."

Schafer's career began in the nascent years of the game industry; his first job was at LucasArts, the game development division of Lucasfilm, in 1989. While many large companies made games at this time – Schafer worked for George Lucas' company, after all – video games were still a hobbyist medium, made for and by hobbyists. Common labor practices of other industries weren't present in the burgeoning game industry – which was full of people making tentpole games at home with friends, such as the original Doom, developed by id Software and released in 1993.

At the time, working day and night on video games, even at the cost of personal wellness, was just what game developers did. As Schafer tells it, it never occurred to him to be upset over the hours he put in at LucasArts. Working on point-and-click adventure games, such as Escape From Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, and Full Throttle, Schafer worked countless hours, because that was the job.

"I had no life," Schafer recalls. "I was working on Grim Fandango until, like, three at night, seven days a week. All I did was be in the office writing dialogue all the time."

Double Fine Productions Grim Fandango

It's worth pointing out, Schafer still speaks highly of his time at LucasArts; in a lot of ways, it made his career. He also says that if he wasn't working on the games, he would have just gone home, watched TV, and ate Chinese food. "Like, it's not that big a loss," Schafer says about the time. But in 2000, Schafer left LucasArts and founded his own studio, Double Fine Productions. The first game the company worked on, the 2005 cult classic Psychonauts, had an abysmal development cycle. "In fact, the Grim crunch mode was nothing compared to the Psychonauts’ crunch mode," Schafer says. "So it got even worse, just like you would imagine."

More than 15 years later, Schafer and members of the development team still talk about how miserable the production was at times. A big issue was, as a brand-new studio, the team had little experience with 3D platformers. It was also making its own engine at the time and learning at a basic level what kind of company Double Fine even was. While ultimately the finished product turned out great and the team still speaks fondly about the completed game, the making of Psychonauts fundamentally altered Double Fine forever. Starting on the company's second project, Brütal Legend, Schafer claims Double Fine tried to fight and curb crunch modes entirely. "We really reduced it on each project," he says. "We've been able to bring it down and mostly get rid of it."

"Whenever there's crunch mode, it means a mistake has been made somewhere," Schafer says.

For the last several years, crunch has been a hot-button topic in the game industry. As games get harder to make and opinions on work-life balance change, many studios have been called out for their labor practices. Rockstar Games, Naughty Dog, CD Projekt Red, and many other massive game companies have all come under fire when it comes to crunch. Where the game industry used to be full of young people making games in their homes, it's now a billion-dollar global industry, employing hundreds of thousands of people. In a lot of ways, the labor expectations of decades past, when a game was made by a few people, haven't scaled to meet the dynamic and changing needs of a workforce of thousands of developers who all have their own private lives, needs, and backgrounds. The game industry has yet to successfully unionize, either, which could better protect employees from exploitative labor practices such as crunch.

Double Fine Productions Psychonauts

The fact that a company like Double Fine is being as frank as it is about crunch and labor – with the press and with its own employees ­– is sadly rarer than it should be. Outside of exposés, crunch is often a hidden issue, kept away from the public eye. Double Fine is not only frank about its own issues with crunch and hopeful solutions,  but some people within the company don't exactly pull punches when talking about crunch within the game industry at large.

"I feel like the industry kind of just leans on that," Schafer says. "I think that's where it's actually evil, when you know, your big company kind of banks on that. And they know they're going to lay off the team afterward, so it just doesn't matter what they do to morale, you know? So that's where the problems come from."

"I do feel that when I worked at other companies – and I'm not going to name any names – I do feel like there were times where the culture and the fundamental planning for a game was built around making people work 60 to 80 hours a week for months on end, and that was built into the schedule," adds Double Fine artist Lee Petty. "That was extremely prevalent in the industry. It still is. It's less prevalent and now it gets hidden and lied about in various ways. That's terrible. That's a terrible cost to a human being."

At Double Fine, mitigating crunch essentially comes down to planning and money. On a game like Brütal Legend, for example, the company partnered with its publisher EA, a move Schafer says was to secure the money Double Fine needed for the ambitious scope of the project without having to crunch the team to meet those demands. More recently, before it was acquired by Microsoft in 2019, Double Fine cut the boss fights from Psychonauts 2 because it didn't have the resources to finish those gameplay sequences – something it was able to reimplement after the buyout.

Schafer disputes the idea that crunch is inevitable. But it is something a studio needs to prioritize. Human beings work for game development studios, and guaranteeing their quality-of-life, not sacrificing it for a commercial product, is part of running and managing a company.

"You have to see that dial as not moveable," Schafer says. "You're like, ‘Okay, we're up against the gun. The schedule can't move because the marketing plans are in order. The quality can't move because we can't make something bad. The budget – there's no more money. You can't move these dials. Well, there's the quality of life of the team dial. Let's just move that way down and then we'll get all this more time.' People always see that as a dial that's movable because you have the authority to make people feel like they should work. You just have to set that as a rule that that's not movable either. In the end, you often move all the dials a little bit. You get a little bit more money, little more time, or you plan better so you don't have to do these kinds of trade-offs."

Double Fine Productions Psychonauts 2

Petty, who’s worked in the game industry for 25 years and been with Double Fine since Brütal Legend, says he's seen Psychonauts 2 handled better than any project before it at Double Fine. Schafer and other management have made avoiding crunch a top priority, he says. And while he feels great about that movement, he adds, "I feel like there's always improvement that can be done."

These points are all echoed by newer members of Double Fine's staff. During a recent period of burnout, content and community manager Heather Alexandra, who also wrote about crunch during her time as a journalist for Kotaku, was told by her boss to take time off. "And I think in other places, if you were working in Business Unit C of ward nine, whatever, that just wouldn't happen," Alexandra says. "But here, it's a thing that can happen because people do look out for each other."

Other employees bring up similar stories, being told to take time off by bosses or superiors when they've put extra time in on a project. Similarly, sometimes if someone is staying at work late, they will also be told to just go home.

"The only time I've ever stayed late is because I, personally, was like, 'I really want to get this thing done,’" says senior systems programmer Aaron Jacobs. "In those few cases when that has happened and I have decided to stay late, I will, at the time, often get pressure from people to go home."

While Double Fine has certainly found a better balance in this area, that's not to say the studio is perfect and there isn't room for improvement. Challenges continue to arise, especially in the last year, when the workforce shifted to working from home due to the ongoing global pandemic. It's harder to keep an eye on every employee when they're no longer sitting next to you in an office. If someone does a bit of extra work at night instead of watching Netflix, does that count as crunch? What if someone works better at night than they do during normal work hours? Do you try and mitigate that? As Double Fine keeps addressing its relationship to crunch while also navigating a changing world, these are the questions newer employees bring up when asked about Double Fine's labor practices, on top of whether a project inherently encourages crunch – despite management's best efforts.

Double Fine Productions Psychonauts 2

"I think there are ways to improve," says senior concept artist Gianna Ruggiero. "Even though we are a culture that we don't condone crunch, is the project itself making it stressful for people to feel like they need to crunch? And if that is happening, how are we addressing that? And I don't think that's something that Double Fine is that aware of yet.”

"Psychonauts [2], we keep extending when this thing is coming out,” Ruggiero continues. “And there are reasons for that. And there are stresses on people. That's something that I think we could be better at doing, is understanding and mitigating those stresses on people."

It stands to reason that after 15 years of striving to limit crunch, Double Fine will continue to reevaluate, reassess, and work on its relationship with labor going forward. Talking to people from the studio, especially on Psychonauts 2, it seems to be a sizable pillar of the company's overall culture and development philosophies. Schafer admits he is still learning; it's an ongoing process. But at the very least, where other companies have often failed, Double Fine has created a workplace that tries to put the individual needs of its employees first. It's a game development studio making commercial products, but that studio is made of human beings. That's not lost on the brass within Double Fine.

"I think prioritizing people is something that Double Fine does a good job at," says environment artist Janice Bell. "Because it just feels like a lot of other studios see their people as assets, where Double Fine is the first studio I've worked at where they actually see you as people, important parts of the studio with views that matter and input that matter[s]."

Friday, May 28, 2021

Far Cry 6 Collector's Edition Revealed, Pre-Orders Now Live

We've got adorable puppy dogs, enhanced weapon crafting, a power-crazed dictator on the cusp of losing his power; Far Cry 6 has it all. For those that are excited about the next Ubisoft adventure, the Far Cry 6 Collector's Edition is now available to pre-order. Not big into collectibles? There are other versions, as well. Here's what you need to know. 

For those that pre-order Far Cry 6, you get a special skin for the adorable Chorizo wiener dog that stole the show. You can also get the Discos Locos deadly disc launcher, as well. The pre-order bonus for the game is called the Libertad Pack. 

Far Cry 6 Standard Edition - $60

  • Base game
  • Pre-order bonuses 

Far Cry 6 Gold Edition - $100 - $110

  • Base game
  • Pre-order bonuses
  • Season Pass
    • 3 DLCs
      • Beware the Dictator 
      • The Jewel of the Carribean
      • A Nation Stranded in the Past
  • For $110, you can get a steelbook

Far Cry 6 Ultimate Edition - $120

  • Base game
  • Pre-order bonuses
  • Season Pass
  • Three skins
    • Croc Hunter
    • Vice
    • Jungle Expedition

Far Cry 6 Collector's Edition - $200

  • Base game
  • Pre-order bonuses
  • Season Pass
  • The skins mentioned above
  • Tostador 72cm flamethrower replica
  • Far Cry 6 64-page art book
  • "How to assemble" print
  • Steelbook
  • 10 stickers
  • Soundtrack
  • Chorizo keychain
  • World map

We learned a lot today about Far Cry 6 with stunning new gameplay, including how youc an choose from a puppers or vicious crocodile as a partner in crime and how you can craft weapons to your heart's content. The adventure kicks off on October 7, will you be taking part? 

The Last Of Us TV Series: Every Character Casting Confirmed So Far

HBO is adapting the Naughty Dog universe of The Last of Us, starring The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal as Joel himself. With more casting news on the way, we decided to compile all of the confirmed casting choices so far, and we will update it as more are revealed in the coming months. For those curious, here is every character casting confirmed for The Last of Us TV series from HBO. 

The Last of Us TV series just recently added two new directors with Jasmila Žbanić (Aida) and Ali Abbasi (Border). The pair joins Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin and Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann. The casting choices for the most notable characters can be seen in the list below:

Every The Last of Us TV series character casting confirmed so far

This is a much shorter list than what we have for the upcoming Borderlands movie from Eli Roth, however, more casting choices will be revealed in the near future. We still don't have a trailer at this point, but at least we aren't totally in the dark about what's on the horizon.  Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann previously confirmed that the upcoming adaptation would feature original content alongside the already-known game narrative that made the first title a PlayStation insta-hit. 

"We talked at length that season 1 of The Last of Us series is going to be the first game," Druckmann mentioned in a previous interview"As far as the superficial things, like should a character wear the same plaid shirt or the same red shirt? They might or might not appear in it; that’s way less important to us than getting the core of who these people are and the core of their journey. Things sometimes stay pretty close. It’s funny to see my dialogue there from the games in HBO scripts. And sometimes they deviate greatly to much better effect because we are dealing with a different medium."

Hopefully, with more and more progress being made towards getting a full cast and crew, we'll have something to see this Summer. The E3 window is just around the corner; the perfect time for Sony to showcase some new games and possibly a first look at the upcoming TV series. 

With only three names confirmed thus far, it does beg the question: Who else would you like to see cast? Would you recast anyone confirmed up until this point? Sound off with your thoughts in the comment section below! 

Mass Effect's Jennifer Hale And Courtenay Taylor On The Challenges Of Bringing Certain Characters To Life

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With the Mass Effect Legendary Edition out now, so many seasoned fans are jumping back to board the Normandy once more to revisit familiar planets and say hello to old friends. More than that, however, newcomers to this beloved franchise are diving in for the first time, experiencing a new adventure, one that has touched so many lives throughout the years. With so many characters that have come to feel like family so many, what about the voices behind those friendly faces? We sat down with Jennifer Hale, who plays Commander Jane Shepard (among other roles) in the franchise, and Courtenay Taylor, who famously brought Jack to life, to learn a little more about the process behind the creation. We already knew it wasn't easy, but some of what we learned is good insight that applies to many aspects of life. 

When going a little deeper into the voice acting side of games, Taylor mentioned that it's still hard not to be self-critical, no matter the years of experience under her belt. "It's hard, honestly. I've tried to give this up the further into my career I get, but it's really hard for me not to be self-critical," she tells Game Informer. "I am trying to be more gentle with myself, but there is no way for you to do this job where you get so little information from the start, and then to be able to know the whole story and see who is who and everything like that and to not go back and be like 'ah, you know what, I think I have should have done this instead.' It's just the level of information we are working with, it's generally very small."

She adds, "So how you come out the other side? It's not like watching a movie where you're like, 'Oh, I know what the script was.' [Voice acting] is sort of all over the place, and it's really hard to focus when it's you." 

Hale jumped in, saying, "Yeah! I think that's one for the things that people may not realize. It's that this job, you know, game acting 85% of the time is what we call cold reading, you don't get the script ahead of the time [like movie actors do]. And even when you get the script, it's an Excel spreadsheet with just your lines, it doesn't have the context, it doesn't have what just happened; there are all these questions before you say each line, which is obviously, you know, 'who am I? What do I want? Who am I talking to? What just happened? What's going on between me and them? What's the arc of our story together? Where are we? Did I just meet them or did they just try to kill me?' There are all of these branching storylines that we just don't know. It's insane. Now we walk in, there it is on the monitor." 

She laughed, adding, "God bless the voice directors. We can ask them, sometimes, what just happened? They'll say this and that and then we just do it. Sometimes we'll do it a couple of times. Maybe if we're really fancy, six or seven times, maybe eight. Usually between two to four, though. And then it goes off to the market and it's out of our hands."

Hrayr Movsisyan

Taylor adds, "You do have a voice director, and there are some amazing ones out there. I think Jen [Hale] would agree with me how important it is to have someone that can synthesize this process because these 'game bibles' are huge. They're massive, and even if you could read them, as an actor, you would never be able to remember. This is like a movie that you are walking through and meeting 100 different people and having relationships. So to have a voice director who can not only synthesize the writers in the room, the actual material that's coming down the pipeline that can be written as we're just going along. And then wrangling actors who, you know, can be crazy and sensitive, and to be able to put all of that together and make it better? It's awesome."

Hale also adds that Mass Effect was a great example of how a phenomenal voice director can make or break an experience. One thing the trilogy is hailed for (Hale'd, if you will) is it's organic and natural-feeling and sounding dialogue. The angry moments are so angry. The vulnerable moments are so vulnerable. The fight-to-survive moments? Unbeatable. A lot of that is the talent, absolutely, but bringing it all together is very much on the voice directors, as well. According to Hale, the voice directors for Mass Effect were able to "synthesize" flawlessly, she was even allowed to voice alongside Mark Meer, the actor behind Commander John Shepard, to make sure that the experience between the two gender options felt in harmony, versus like two completely different games. 

What was interesting to me when chatting with these two incredible women was just how much Taylor related to Jack as a character. I've mentioned before in an earlier Yakuza feature about what it was like to grow up homeless and always on the cusp of dangerous situations, and that's something that has made me, as a fan, relate to Jack. She was abused, tormented, used. She fought for her right to survive, and that hardened her in a lot of ways. While Taylor had her own battles, her own hardships and punk-rock nature helped her bring Jack to life in a way that I don't think anyone else could have. 

When I asked Taylor, after learning about how little information voice actors sometimes get, how she made Jack her own, she mentioned that she did already have her backstory, and that helped. That being said, she immediately connected to her when she received the script. After seeing Jack's visuals and how she looked when she was introduced in Mass Effect 2, Taylor mentioned that got her the most excited. When she first saw Jack in all of her shaved-head glory, a connection was made. 

Game Informer

"I was so excited," says tells Game Informer. "Because actually, I did shave my head back in high school. The school I went to was very strict, so when I dyed my hair pink, they removed me until I had my natural hair color back. So I just shaved my head. They were not happy about that, but I was like, 'hey, man, this came out it's natural to shave.' I also had a mohawk in high school, stuff like that. It made me feel like this was kind of kismet. You know, the magic of voice acting isn't actually magic, it's a lot of hard work, it's taking a lot of classes, it's being in touch with your emotions, it's all the things that make up a bigger picture."

She continued, saying, "For me personally, the connection with Jack was that I had gone through - obviously not anything like [the character] did - but I did have a hard time in school. I had funny hair colors. Back then, people didn't have those hair colors. They didn't do that. People would walk up to you and yank your head back and mock you and say weird things like 'where'd you park your spaceship, weirdo.' But I was a total punk rocker. I went to shows back when not a lot of people did that. I had a lot of anger and a lot of emotions that I wasn't really in charge of. A lot of displaced anger. And so the amazing writing and to be able to really get in touch with my emotions, for better or worse, helped [with Jack]. In the context of Jack, what she had gone through, and that feeling that you're not worthy of being loved, you know, not being the best. The best defense is offense, you know. Basically, punch now and ask questions later, that feeling was familiar to me. Because of that, I felt like I had this deep connection because I understand how hard it can be when you have no way to channel or harness the rage of things, of what happened to you."

To be able to come out of the other side, knowing that you are greater than the sum of your parts ... Jack's story was just an excellently crafted storyline.

To read more about Taylor's thoughts on Jack, including how she feels that her character didn't see her full potential, you can check out our previous interview right here. Oh, and how Hale wants FemShep to have her time to shine with Tali as a romance option

Game Informer Staff Celebrate 5 Years of Overwatch

In a market full of class-based multiplayer games, Overwatch exploded onto the scene back in 2016 with a roster that demanded attention. Not only did each character fulfill a necessary team role, but each of them was visually distinct from the last. Players fell in love with Mei's charm, chastised Bastion and his damn shield turret, and found solace behind Reinhardt's broad shoulde– I mean, uh, barrier field. You had a role to play no matter which hero you played, and when your team was firing on all cylinders, Overwatch felt like magic. And while the shifting winds of esports lead to major shakeups in the game's meta, Blizzard continued to update their hero shooter with seasonal events, new cosmetics, and even massive character reworks.

In our original review of Overwatch, we lauded the game's fresh twist on the team-based multiplayer genre:

Overwatch is an amazing experience. It’s fresh and consistently fun, with matches that are great in random groups but astonishingly good when played with friends. Blizzard has taken its masterful art of polishing and perfection to the team shooter, and things will never be the same.

To close out Overwatch's 5th Anniversary week, I reached out to Game Informer staff members to share why Overwatch means so much to us. If you have any specific memories tied to the game or simply want to share what Overwatch means to you, leave a comment down below to let us know.

Margaret Andrews, Production Director

“Overwatch is a perfect storm of skills & challenges, short matches, and a core social element that makes it a uniquely captivating game I'm still playing 1400 hours later. Where other games in this genre haven't hooked me, Overwatch did with its low barrier to entry and positive reinforcement. Free from leaderboards and public rankings, I felt encouraged to play characters I wouldn't normally play and had a blast doing it. My playtime escalated quickly, and 5 years later, I'm still logging on almost every day, usually to play with family. It's provided unique opportunities to spend time with friends and coworkers during a turbulent pandemic year, some of whom I haven't seen in ages. Overwatch gives us the virtual space to enjoy that special time together. Not even a week goes by that the office Overwatch Slack channel isn't professing our mutual love for Mei, speculating about our favorite heroes, or coordinating our next play session. It's this blend of community and gameplay that makes Overwatch so important to me.”

Kimberley Wallace, Features Editor

“Positive reinforcement is a powerful thing, and that’s where Overwatch shines. It celebrates players' achievements and doesn't shame their failures. When you get a card on the board or the Play of the Game, it’s a nod to a job well done - encouraging you to keep it up and showing your team firsthand where you excelled. And if you have an off game, your stats aren’t plastered all over for others to see. In a world where we are fast to focus on the negatives and find the flaws, I appreciate Overwatch praising what people do well in matches. The whole system is encouraging, and I can’t deny the adrenaline rush I get from seeing my best moments captured on screen. How can you not crack a little smile when your name and character intro pop up for Play of the Game? And sometimes, that’s the little thing we need to make our day better. Through the years, Overwatch has celebrated my successes, and this has only made me want to keep getting better at the game.“

Kristin Williams, Web Designer & Programmer

“I’ve never been a big online gamer - interacting with people I can look in the face is stressful enough, and as a femme gamer, I’ve always been aware of the threat of harassment in online spaces. So when friends recommended I try out Overwatch, I ignored them – for a while. It took me a year to try out the game, but as soon as I started, I set up weekly games, jumped on voice chats with friends I hadn’t talked to in years, and talked excitedly about the lore and complaining about Bastion being overpowered. As much as I enjoy the gameplay, that’s what Overwatch means to me – an evening with friends, yelling at the TV. Playing on a team together in Overwatch means we’re sharing victories, or at least losing together. It’s fun to improve your skills and learn new strategies when you’ve got your friends to encourage you even when you’re having an off day. I’m not sure I would have stuck with the game so long if I was playing with just anyone, but teaming up with people I care about has kept me coming back to the game for years and far too many hours of playtime.”

Liana Ruppert, Senior Associate Editor

“Overwatch, to me, is a game that offers a strange source of calm. It’s an adaptable game that can be what the player wants it to be. For some, it can be the simple shooter that it looks like; an enjoyable online experience to pass the time and destress. Or, it can be something more. For me, I’ve been enjoying diving into deeper lore. The comics, the events, the in-lobby voice lines depending on what the team comp is. It all adds up to paint a picture of the heroes of Overwatch beyond the short time we get with them while in a match. One thing I am going to miss, though, is Jeff Kaplan. He brought with him a love for the community that could be felt. Each update from him felt genuine, more player-to-player than anything. He gave fans permission to be as silly as they want, which is why I love this fanbase so much. There’s a lot of passion for Overwatch, passion that has carried it through its lulls. It’s those kinds of communities that I value the most. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Overwatch 2, but looking back? I’m just really grateful for the experience that Overwatch has offered since its launch.”

You Can Fight Alongside A Cute Weiner Dog Or A Vicious Crocodile In Far Cry 6

Today’s Far Cry 6 gameplay reel showcased high-stakes gunfights, zany explosions, guerrilla commandos, and...a cute weiner dog that kills enemies with kindness. Far Cry 5’s “Guns For Hire” is back, but this time your companions are fittingly called “Amigos For Hire.” You see, the Cuban island of Yara is expansive and beautiful; brimming with dense metropolitan centers, sparkling beaches, and lush forests. Over the course of the many intense skirmishes that you’ll be catalyzing, you might find yourself in need of some company. Luckily for you, two such allies were revealed in the Far Cry 6 footage: an adorable pup and a man-eating crocodile.


Let me guess, if you weren’t sold before, you’re sold now that you know Chorizo (what an incredible name for a weiner dog!) is coming along for the ride. Your little buddy is as sweet as they come, but packs an unexpectedly mean punch too. If you prefer the stealth approach when taking down command posts or patrolling platoons, let Chorizo run loose and distract guards with his incredibly adorable face and unassuming barks. Sure, you’ll have to swoop in from behind with a bow knife and put that unsuspecting soldier to rest, but viva la revolution am I right? When the smoke clears, don’t forget to show the little guy some love with a flurry of pets. Chorizo is a true doggy-heartthrob and I'm sure that he'll make every “Best Video Game Dogs/Pets” listicle to come. 


On the other side of the spectrum, you have ex-KGB spy Juan Cortez’s pet crocodile, Guapo (Spanish for “handsome”). This ferocious reptile definitely looks better from a distance for militias since he tends to close in on enemy positions and rip their skin and defenses to shreds. Guapo is fast-moving while on land, but even deadlier underwater as you can use his terrifying presence to initiate engagements or keep foes occupied. And much like his less-intimidating counterpart, Chorizo, you can show Guapo some affection and appreciation too...just mind that gigantic set of teeth, of course.

Better yet, you can also rush through the packed streets and muddy villages of Yara on horseback if that suits your fancy. Hopefully, we'll get to see some more Amigos For Hire in future cinematics.…; target="_blank">Far Cry 6 is slated to launch at some point later in the year on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, PC, and Mac.

How are you feeling about these two animal friends? Do you you think you'll commission one's services over the other, or are you planning to alternate playstyles? 

Far Cry 6 Lets You Craft Awesome Weapons To Your Heart’s Content

Antón Castillo’s bloody reign over the Cuban paradise, Yara, must be stopped. You’ll scour the island’s myriad biomes alongside a bevy of Amigos For Hire and with the support of a few other revolutionaries to free the general public from tyrannical rule. As Dani Rojas (players can choose to play as a woman or man), you’ll need the best equipment you can find. Sometimes, however, instead of stumbling across some rare stash or bountiful armory, you’ll have to make due with what you’ve got. In Far Cry 6, you’ll have to craft your most powerful weapons to transform into a one-person-army. 

Yaran culture is appropriately informed by Cuba’s real-world “resolver” philosophy: use everything and anything at your disposal to accomplish the goal/objective that has been set. As a seasoned mercenary and revolutionary, you must embrace this methodology to stay one step ahead of Castillo’s gargantuan military force. In other words, you’ll become a “resolver guerilla.” While out and about, you’ll likely collect a good amount of seemingly throw-away scraps and mechanical parts. These pieces can be presented  to your mentor, Juan Cortez, and crafted into weapons of notable strength. 

In the gameplay footage that was released today, Dani can be seen wielding a motorcycle engine powered minigun and unleashing carnage on their weaker opponents. Additionally, you’ll likely spot a homing missile throwing backpack hilariously laying waste to the landscape. Far Cry 6 embraces the zaniness of craftable weapons so that you can live out your own badass action-movie fantasies. And when you’re not in the mood to spark the flames of chaos and warfare, you can holster your weapon– for the first time in franchise history by the way! – to take a more passive approach to exploration and navigation. 

While we’re sure there’ll be more wacky firearms and gear to create, we’ll have to wait and see what Ubisoft has in store for future trailers and updates. Unfortunately Far Cry 6 was delayed, but it’s still set for a 2021 launch on next-gen and current-gen consoles as well as PC and Stadia. 

Far Cry 6 Release Date Set With New Gameplay Reveal

Far Cry 6 release date has been revealed alongside an extensive first look at what the next step of the Ubisoft franchise will have to offer. From petting those good puppers out there to riding horses, the latest Far Cry looks to be an adventure. 

The latest Far Cry title is set to release on October 7 as revealed in the character trailer released below. Showing off more of the faces of Far Cry 6, including a new look at Anton Castillo played by Giancarlo Esposito

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Set in the fictional world of Yara, Anton's dictatorship role was heavily inspired by his father, the former president of this location. Following dear old dad's execution after the people of Yara rebelled, Anton grew up fixated on the belief that this island was stolen from him and his family by those that rebelled. As he grew up, the idea of control became more than enticing as the Castillo family continued to grow in power. When the son eventually became El Presidente, he sought to rebuild Yara in his own image. 

Rebellion, unlike lightning, does often strike in the same place twice, which is what the latest look at Far Cry 6 shows. There are many faces that are leading this new quest for freedom. We'll have a few deeper dives looking into the world of Far Cry 6 here soon on the site, so keep it tuned in here at Game Informer to learn more about the many new faces players will meet, and the features that can be enjoyed. 

Far Cry 6 is set to arrive on October 7 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna. 

Thoughts on the latest look at Far Cry 6 and the gameplay reveal going on now at the time this article was written? Sound off with your hottest of hot takes in the comment section below! 

Bungie Highlights Upcoming Destiny 2: Season of the Splicer Stasis Changes

Destiny 2: Season of the Splicer brings with it transmog, the epic return of Vault of Glass, Expunge, and more. It is also bringing much-needed Stasis changes, an ability introduced with Beyond Light that has the Destiny community divided, doubly so on the PvP side of things. In a recent blog post from Bungie, the studio has outlined some upcoming changes to this subclass and what that means for Guardians going forward. 

Sandbox lead Kevin Yanes took the reigns during this week's update to talk about Stasis changes that Guardians have ahead. The main focus of the latest Statsis heads up concerns the state of PvP. There has been a lot of feedback regarding the addition of PvP. While I personally love the additional challenge in Crucible, despite hating getting frozen, I do understand the frustration. It is incredibly unbalanced, especially for those playing comp. With the lack of new Crucible maps and the perceived lack of meaningful updates to the PvP experience, it's understandable why the Guardian versus Guardian aspect of Destiny 2 has found itself under a bright spotlight. 

"It’s clear the vision we had for crowd control in PvE is succeeding and players are finding it both useful and fun," said Yanes in the most recent blog post. "We love how Stasis plays in PvE and we want to preserve that experience, but we agree with many in the PvP community who say that Stasis is too dominant in the Crucible for too little effort or skill required."

He continued on, saying that the feedback has been crucial and that the team is preparing to roll out some new changes based on community insight. Working hard to "reel in this great new power," Bungie is making a few vital tweaks to make Crucible more fun and blanaced. 

"Stasis and crowd control are key components of the Destiny combat sandbox - they're not going anywhere, meaning it’s up to us to ensure Stasis plays well across all activities, regardless of skill level," he added. "What you’ll find detailed in this TWAB is a series of changes we believe will more evenly position Stasis alongside Void, Solar, and Arc subclasses as an equal option rather than the dominant one, while retaining what is fun about the ability set."

The dev continues saying that since Forsaken, the team recognizes why players feel that gunplay has "taken a backseat" and because of that, Bungie will be focusing more on weapons going forward. Since Crucible is an excellent combination of subclass power and weaponry, the balance is a hard, thin line to tread, but one the studio is committed to regardless. 

Yanes mentioned that the changes going forward implement a few key pillars of the studio's creative vision going into PvP, including weapons as a primary focus, non-super abilities acting as an enhancement to combat, abilities with clear-cut strengths, weakness and counters, and rewards. All in all, the gist of the latest update is that Bungie has heard players and it is shifting its focus back onto gunplay; the core pillar. 

Combat designer Eric Smith added that Bungie had some planned changes for Season 15 with a substantial subclass balance patch, but feedback has prompted for some of those changes to arrive sooner rather than later. For Hotfix (June 3), the below changes can be expected: 

Stasis Freeze

  • Reduced duration of all non-Super freezes vs. players to 1.35s.
    • Note: This freeze is too short to break out of, so breaking out is now only possible when frozen by a Super.
  • Reduced Special-weapon, Heavy-weapon, and Light-ability bonus damage vs. frozen players from +50% to +5%.

Stasis Slow 

  • No longer reduces weapon accuracy. 
    • Now increases weapon flinch when under fire. 
  • No longer suppresses class ability and air moves (e.g., Icarus Dash). 
    • Known issue: The Stormcaller’s Ionic Blink is still suppressed when slowed. We plan to address this in a future release. 
  • Reduced movement speed penalty while slowed by ~20%. 

Whisper of Hedrons Fragment

  • No longer increases weapon damage after freezing. 
  • Now increases weapon stability, weapon aim assist, Mobility, Resilience, and Recovery after freezing. 

Whisper of Rime Fragment

  • No longer provides overshield while in Super. 

Coldsnap Grenade 

  • Seeker no longer tracks targets after initial target acquisition. 
  • Increased arming duration before seeker spawns from 0.3s to 0.8s. 
  • Reduced detonation radius vs. players from 3m to 1.5m. 
  • Now bounces off walls and detonates on the ground. 

Titan Behemoth 

Shiver Strike 

  • Reduced flight speed and distance. 
  • Reduced knockback vs. players. 
  • Removed slow detonation on player impact. 


  • Now requires the Titan to sprint for 1.25s before activation when not in Super. 
  • Removed cooldown. 

Howl of the Storm 

  • Reduced angle of initial freezing/damage cone. 
  • Reduced crystal-creation freezing radius. 
  • Slowed down sequence of crystal formation to allow victims more opportunity to escape. 
  • Now spawns a small crystal on walls if performed into walls. 

Glacial Quake 

  • Reduced heavy slam vertical freeze range vs. players. 
  • Reduced damage resistance from 50% to 47%. 

Hunter Revenant 

Withering Blade

  • Reduced slow duration vs. players from 2.5s to 1.5s. 
  • Reduced Whisper of Durance slow-duration extension vs. players from 2s to 0.5s. 
  • Reduced damage vs. players from 65 to 45 (after one bounce reduced further to 30). 
  • Reduced projectile speed by 10%. 
  • Reduced tracking after bouncing off a wall. 

Winter’s Shroud 

  • Reduced slow duration vs. players from 2.5s to 1.5s. 
  • Reduced Whisper of Durance slow-duration extension vs. players from 2s to 0.5s. 

Touch of Winter 

  • Coldsnap seeker no longer has increased movement speed or travel distance. 
  • Coldsnap seeker now spawns a small Stasis crystal on detonation. 

Warlock Shadebinder

Penumbral Blast 

  • Reduced tracking and proximity detonation size and tracking vs. players. 
  • Reduced freeze radius vs. players when impacting the environment from 2.7m to 1.5m. 

Iceflare Bolts 

  • Seeker now only chains once when spawned from a player shatter. 

Winter’s Wrath 

  • Freezing-projectile tracking strength now ramps down to 0 after 2s of flight.'

To learn more, you can check out the full Bungie blog post here

Best Nintendo Switch Games

It's an exciting time for fans of Nintendo hardware, as a New Nintendo Switch announcement appears imminent. The upgraded Switch will reportedly be released as early as September, but for now we're taking a look at the best Switch games you can play on your current hardware. If Switch has proven anything, it’s that a console is truly defined by what you can play on it, and with such a vast library of excellent games, choosing only 25 has proven to be difficult.

This list was assembled by the entire IGN content team — including our resident Nintendo experts, the NVC podcast crew — and represents what we think are the best games to enjoy on the Switch right now, whether you're picking one up for the first time or have been a platform enthusiast since day one. So without further ado, these are our picks for the 25 best Nintendo Switch games.

More on the Best of Nintendo:

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25. Ring Fit Adventure

Sure, exercising is good for you, but it’s got two pretty big drawbacks: one, it costs a lot of money to join a gym and, two, it’s kind of boring. Ring Fit Adventure fixes both of those problems by gamifying exercise and letting you work out from home while somehow making the entire experience feel like a fun, casual RPG. By strapping the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con to your leg and with the strange, brilliant new Ring-Con peripheral, Ring Fit encourages you to use your whole body to battle monsters, collect coins, level up, and push past your personal bests — all while giving you a serious workout within the confines of your living room. It proves that exercising can be fun — especially when it’s thousands of dollars cheaper than hiring a personal trainer, too.

24. Link's Awakening

With its charming, toyetic visual style and bizarrely dark undertones, the vast island of Koholint in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening has never looked better than it does on Nintendo Switch. Link’s shipwrecked adventure on a mysterious island rife with eccentric characters and sprawling dungeons has always been one of the stranger Zelda stories, and this remake allows new audiences and aging fans alike to appreciate it on a modern system. It modernizes the classic beloved Zelda game with a shiny new coat of paint, some excellent quality of life improvements, and loads more hidden collectibles but, ultimately, its greatest accomplishment is retaining the weird, haunting, beautiful feeling of the original Game Boy game.

Another Zelda remake, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, is coming to Switch on July 16.

23. Astral Chain

Astral Chain is PlatinumGames at its best. It’s got it all: a unique story; deep character customization with a variety of play styles, and - of course - power-armored robot pets. On top of all that, it’s got some of the most satisfying, challenging, and fast-paced combat you'll see on the Nintendo Switch. If you’re a fan of other PlatinumGames like Bayonetta, Vanquish, or Nier: Automata, Astral Chain won’t disappoint.

22. SteamWorld Dig 2

SteamWorld Dig 2 is a textbook example of everything a sequel should be: bigger, smarter, and just straight up more fun. Guiding Dorothy through SWD 2’s labyrinthine caverns searching for loot and upgrades is a challenging and charming twist on the classic “Metroidvania” style and has a gameplay loop that will undoubtedly keep you up into the wee hours of the morning for “just one more run."

Thunderful Games, f.k.a. Image & Form, recently announced it has several new SteamWorld Dig games in development.

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21. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate

The Nintendo Switch makes it possible to get the best of both *worlds* with Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. You can play using a comfortable pro-controller, but you can also slay its more than 100 monsters in person with friends. On top of the ridiculous amount of content packed in, you can also play as an adorable cat and pet alpacas.

Be sure to check out our recap of everything announced during Capcom's recent Monster Hunter livestream, which included new content for Monster Hunter Rise and new details about the forthcoming Monster Hunter Stories 2.

20. Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2 is one of those rare games you can play for more than a year and still not be tired of it. Many players hoped for a fast port to Switch to hit the ground running, but what we got was an impressive sequel with an all-new single-player campaign and plenty of incredible, and free, post-release content.

Nintendo announced Splatoon 3 earlier this year with a 2022 release date.

19. Paper Mario: The Origami King

Paper Mario: The Origami King may not a perfect game – or, in fact, not even the best entry in the Paper Mario series – but it is one of the most charming adventures on the Nintendo Switch. While most of the RPG trappings of the earliest entries of the franchise have been stripped away in Origami King, it’s more than made up for by an interesting new take on the battle system and one of the funniest, silliest stories in any game to date.

18. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

Retro’s second entry in their Donkey Kong Country series is every bit as charming and challenging as Rare’s SNES trilogy. The Switch port of the Wii U original features an easy mode with Funky Kong but retains all the white knuckle platforming that made Tropical Freeze a hit back in 2014. Boasting some of the best boss fights and most original challenges in a platformer in the last decade, and a charming Saturday morning cartoon art style, it’s a must own on Nintendo Switch.

17. Pokemon Sword & Shield

Pokemon Sword & Shield finally brought mainline Pokemon games to home consoles - even if it's only by default, since the Switch is both a handheld and home console. Beyond seeing hundreds of monsters in HD on your nice big TV, Sword & Shield brought with it a slew of welcome changes, including several quality of life improvements, the removal of random encounters, and Gigantamaxing, which basically gave your favorite Pokemon the Stay Puft treatment.

It’s also the first game in the franchise to include post-launch expansion packs, The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra, which include both new and classic Pokemon to add to your collection.

The franchise's latest game, New Pokemon Snap, was released on April 30. The series' next games, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl and Pokemon Legends: Arceus, were recently dated for November 19, 2021, and January 28, 2022, respectively.

16. Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is widely considered one of the best JRPGs ever made. You’ll never want to leave Alrest, even after spending 100+ hours exploring its huge open world.

You play as Rex, a salvager turned hero and “Driver” to the legendary Blade Pyra. Characters are extremely well written, there are dozens of Blades to unlock, all with their own unique look and personality, and the combat system is satisfying and complex.

15. Spiritfarer

It’s not an easy thing to make such a cheery, colorful game built around such a heavy topic, but Spiritfarer manages to have very real conversations about life and death with a warm smile and a plentiful amount of comforting hugs. This lovely town manager has you ferrying friendly souls to their ultimate rest, building them homes and growing close as you do. It’s a downright gorgeous mix of a building game and a platformer, and one that’s not quite like anything else available on Switch or elsewhere.

IGN named Spiritfarer the Best Adventure / Puzzle Game of 2020.

14. Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is a wonderfully open-ended farming sim. You’ll forge your own country path with fishing, fighting, farming, and falling in love. Additionally, being able to take advantage of the Switch’s sleep mode helps take some of the pressure off of not being able to save in the middle of a day, even if a few other bugs in the port are still waiting to be squashed here.

13. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle faced no shortage of skepticism before its launch. But Ubisoft Milan’s robust strategy game proved itself with some truly challenging levels and accessible but complex turn-based gameplay, while also finding a way of marrying the Rabbids and Mushroom Kingdom’s senses of humor into one, charming experience.

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12. Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 helped us achieve our childhood dreams of building our own Super Mario levels. OK, technically the first game did that, too, but the sequel took everything great about the original and somehow made it even more charming and wonderful. Not only are its 100+ story mode levels absolutely brilliant, but its accessibility as a viable game design tool is second to none — game designers of the future will almost certainly cite Super Mario Maker 2 as one of the catalysts for their careers. SMM2 is truly one of the Switch's best experiences: a challenging platformer that satisfies your creative urges, and offers a near-infinite stream of delights.

11. Celeste

Celeste is a surprise masterpiece. Its 2D platforming is some of the best and toughest since Super Meat Boy, with levels that are as challenging to figure out as they are satisfying to complete. But the greatest triumph of Celeste is that its best-in-class jumping and dashing is blended beautifully with an important and sincere story and an incredible soundtrack that make it a genuinely emotional game, even when your feet are planted firmly on the ground.

A surprise semi-sequel, Celeste 2: Lani's Trek (or Celeste Classic 2), was released earlier this year. A proper sequel, however, probably won't happen, according to the developer.

10. Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight is one of the best modern MetroidVania’s available, using all the pieces that make the genre so great in the first place without feeling derivative of anything that came before it.

The expertly crafted map that is the kingdom of Hallownest has an absurd amount of paths to explore, bosses to fight, and secrets to uncover. That's all drawn in a somber but expressive art style that gives the adorable bug people who live their lives, and stories, of their own. It can undoubtedly be a challenging and demanding game, but what you get out of will be a reward worth far more than you put in.

A sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong, is in development for Switch. IGN's hands-on Silksong preview said it's like Hollow Knight "but with the speed cranked up to 11."

9. Slay the Spire

There’s something about Slay the Spire’s balance of strategy and randomness that makes it an endlessly replayable puzzle. Assembling that perfect combo of synergistic cards can feel incredible, but there’s also a joy in scraping your way to victory despite the odds never quite falling in your favor. With that potent package on the Switch’s mobile platform — with some fairly decent touch control options, we might add — it’s a miracle we’ve ever stopped playing it.

8. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8’s encore on Nintendo Switch didn’t just keep the online community alive and added returning favorites like Balloon Battle and Bob-omb Blast, we also got a brand-new “cops and robbers” team mode with Renegade Roundup, all of the great DLC stages, and even some guests from the Splatoon universe. It’s not a new game, but one so good, it deserved to reach a bigger audience on Switch right away.

Mario Kart 8 is now the best-selling racing game in U.S. history. To date, it's sold over 35 million copies worldwide.

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7. Hades

Roguelikes don’t always appeal to everyone, but Hades has somehow found a way to win over even those with a distaste for them. Fighting your way out of the Greek underworld is a ruthless and challenging affair, but every failure is rewarded in a way that somehow makes them exciting in their own right.

Instead of just notching up each loss and moving onto the next, the moments between each run push Hades’ excellent storytelling to the forefront, giving you opportunities to learn more about its charming characters and grow close to them – as well as improve the prince of the underworld’s abilities and weapons. It’s that meaningful mix of progression and infinitely repeatable escape attempts (coupled with genuinely fantastic writing, art, and action) that make Hades as delectable as Ambrosia itself.

Hades was crowned Game of the Year at the 2021 DICE Awards.

6. Luigi's Mansion 3

Luigi's Mansion 3 is essentially a FrankenLuigistein’s monster of the first two games, a mashup of both that creates the perfect Luigi's Mansion experience. Charming, clever, and absolutely gorgeous to look at, Luigi's Mansion is 17 levels of pure ghost-hunting joy. Working your way through each of the haunted hotels may never extremely challenging, but the creative boss fights and deviously hidden collectibles will keep you busy for a dozen hours or more. The excitement of getting to a new level just to see its theme (TV Studio! Sewer Maze! Egypt!) is well worth the price of admission, plus the game opens with Toad driving a bus. Priceless.

5. Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem: Three Houses takes the series to new heights, deftly blending grueling battles with an expansive social hub that allows for near limitless customization as you recruit, train, and bond with the memorable characters on your team. Its unique take on a three-pronged story ensures that no matter which house you choose, the engrossing plot that unfolds always leaves enough mystery to make multiple playthroughs incredibly hard to resist.

The Fire Emblem: Three Houses DLC Expansion Pass, which added seven new missions as part of the Cindered Shadows side story, is now available.

4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Released on the doorstep of a global pandemic, Animal Crossing: New Horizons provided a much need escape to many, selling more than 32 million copies to date. Routine and discovery play equally important roles as you plan the perfect layout for your island, make friends (or enemies) with all your villagers, and invite your friends to your own little utopia to trade items and swap secrets. It’s brilliant in its simplicity and masterful in the way it encourages players to keep up with chores, redecorate and/or reshape entire plots of land, or burn dozens of hours trying to catch rare fish or find every last seasonal item. It certainly helps that all the writing is supremely funny and that, hundreds of hours in, you’re still able to chuckle at a random comment or find genuine inspiration in the places you’d least expect. Taking a cue from many of Nintendo’s Switch editions of their long-running franchises, Animal Crossing New Horizons does little to completely reinvent the franchise, but it makes a great series even more accessible, more exciting, and more wonderful than it has ever been.

New Horizons was nominated for Game of the Year at the Developers Choice Awards.

3. Super Mario Odyssey

A masterclass in 3D platforming, Super Mario Odyssey seamlessly blends the best elements from nearly every Mario game with an entire portfolio of new gameplay mechanics to create something both nostalgic and courageous. New players will adore stomping through the vivid and vast new worlds, while seasoned veterans will stick around after the credits to unlock the hundreds of challenges that await their skill and dexterity. To put it succinctly, Super Mario Odyssey is pure, sublime joy and one of the best Super Mario games ever made.

2. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is exactly what its name implies: it’s the ultimate incarnation of Nintendo’s now 20-year-old brawler series. It’s a celebration of Smash Bros. as a whole, filled with more fighters and levels than ever before, and packed to the gills with over 1000 more characters from all across gaming. “Everyone is here!” may have started out as just another tagline, but it’s one that Nintendo has impressively backed up, and it’s made Ultimate the definitive Smash Bros. game for a long time to come. Add a 20+ hour single-player mode with full-on boss fights and huge world maps and it’s easy to get lost in Ultimate. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had a lot to live up to with that name, but it has undoubtedly done just that.

Smash Ultimate's latest fighters, Xenoblade Chronicles 2's Pyra and Mythra, are now available.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Let’s face it, the Zelda series was long overdue for a major change, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild offers an unparalleled sense of freedom and scale in the palm of your hand. Now widely considered one of the best games of all time, Breath of the Wild tells an epic story, as you glide, cook, and battle your way across a beautifully ruined version of Hyrule. It helped reinvigorate The Legend of Zelda in a way that fans had only dreamt of, easily propelling it to the number one spot on our list and in our hearts.

Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a spinoff prequel to Breath of the Wild, was released in November. A proper sequel is also in development at Nintendo — new info on Breath of the Wild 2 is expected later this year.

Upcoming Switch Games

June features a handful of promising new Switch games, beginning with Ninja Gaiden Master Collection on June 10.  Mario Golf: Super Rush and the Switch version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and 2 will be released on June 25, followed by Disgaea 6 on June 29.

In July, Switch owners can look forward to Monster Hunter Stories 2 on the 9th, Skyward Sword HD on the 16th, the JRPG Cris Tales on the 20th, and The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles on the 27th. ,

Another notable Switch game dated for the back half of the year is No More Heroes 3. Travis Touchdown makes his return on August 27.

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Did we miss anything? Is your favorite game too low? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check back when we reconfigure this list again!